The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 39

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

In the vicinity of an apartment complex in Hwanghak-dong, Seoul, there was a café known for its stylish lighting and open space that created a bright atmosphere. However, at a table in the corner, the mood was notably gloomy where a man was seated.

“*Sigh*…”

Before the man, who let out a deep sigh, there was a tablet PC holding the latest model. Displayed on it was the storyboard he had just finished sketching. At first glance, it seemed rough, but a closer look revealed the professionalism of the work. Still, the man looked unsatisfied with its contents, and his expression remained grim.

“If only something would come to me…”

His name was Lee Byung-ho, a webtoon artist serializing a work called “Martial Arts Hunter” on the country’s most famous webtoon platform. Though being a webtoon artist is a popular profession these days, and he had made a name for himself, if one were to ask if he was happy at the moment, the answer would be complicated.

He worked tirelessly every night until dawn, slept in the mornings, yet was still chased by weekly deadlines. Even on the rare occasion when he found some leisure time, it quickly vanished with a few hospital visits and catching up on errands before yet another deadline loomed. Despite having several assistants, the workload remained the same.

In the end, “Martial Arts Hunter” had to go on a long hiatus a few days ago due to a block in the narrative and worsening symptoms of a condition the artist had long been suffering from, an unfortunate overlay of problems.

“If only this block in the story could be cleared…”

But even a hiatus didn’t mean rest. A hiatus wasn’t a pause but merely a postponement. The guilt over disappointing readers, the dread of the upcoming manuscripts, the self-reproach for not managing one’s health properly—none of these anxieties dissipated, even when trying to nap in bed. A writer could only truly rest after completing their work, and that saying seemed perfectly accurate.

Wondering if a change of scenery might spark some inspiration, he had come to the café. However, if it were an idea that could simply be conjured up, it would have come to him at home as well. Lee Byung-ho stared blankly at the screen.

“Hello, author-nim.”

“Oh, PD-nim.”

Just then, a man approached his table and sat down opposite him. It was the producer in charge of “Martial Arts Hunter,” who had contacted him not long ago, saying he would drop by for a moment.

“Ah, author-nim. You should take it easy at least for this week…”

“Haha… it feels too unsettling to rest without finishing the storyboard.”

Hearing the concern in the PD’s voice as he looked at the tablet PC, Lee Byung-ho replied with a powerless laugh. Producer Kim’s face was filled with sympathy.

He had guessed this might be the situation when he was told that the artist was at a café, but seeing it in person felt different.

“…Would you like something to drink?”

“I still have some drink left… Just give me some sugar.”

Sugar was needed to stimulate the mind. As Lee Byung-ho toyed with the fork on his plate, Producer Kim nodded and stood up from his seat. Moments later, Kim PD returned to the table with an iced Americano and all six varieties of the slice cakes available from the café.

“It’s nice to have generous hands as a PD.”

“It’s the company’s money, no need to be frugal on your behalf.”

Lee Byung-ho smiled as he popped a piece of cake into his mouth, the rich sweetness of the chocolate cream seemingly rejuvenating his weary thoughts.

“What’s the occasion today?”

“Nothing special… Just thought I’d come to see how you’re doing since it’s been three days since the hiatus. And since you’re outside.”

In truth, he had intended to discuss the webtoon’s schedule post-hiatus, but given the situation, bringing up the subject seemed only likely to make things worse. Kim PD naturally concealed his original intention behind a smile.

“Are you feeling a bit better?”

“No… I thought I would after finally getting some rest, but it’s all the same.”

Lee Byung-ho spoke with a bitter expression. The sharp pain in his right wrist was problematic, as was his hazy brain and the creaking in his body. Though he had managed to get more sleep thanks to the hiatus, it was far from enough to recover. He couldn’t even remember the last time he woke up feeling refreshed.

Just once would be fine. If only he could return to his original state, free from the persistent wrist pain and the fatigue ingrained throughout his body.

‘But such things aren’t possible.’

He often entertained such hopes, but such occurrences belonged in martial arts novels—or when encountering a fateful opportunity. In reality, such events weren’t even plausible through serendipity.

“Author-nim, why don’t you try going somewhere you’ve been too busy to visit? A small trip or perhaps a visit to a sauna might help change your mood.”

“A place I couldn’t go to?”

“Yes. Perhaps taking a short trip or going to a sauna. It might help you feel better.”

The word “sauna” provoked a sense of nostalgia. As a child, he often went with friends for fun or to spend the night cheaply, but he hadn’t been near one for years.

“One author I know visits a sauna, but apart from that, there’s a massage place there with extraordinary skill.”

Upon showing interest, Kim PD added the information. However, Lee Byung-ho was skeptical. Having not felt any real effect from previous massages aside from pain, he was doubtful.

“Aren’t all massages essentially the same?”

“I’m not sure myself, but there’s a master masseur working there. They say the author who goes there for massages often says it’s quite different. You can’t get a session without an appointment, that’s how in-demand they are.”

“That good, huh?”

While not fully convinced, he was intrigued by the story. As Lee Byung-ho feigned indifference while showing interest, Kim PD smiled.

“It might be exaggerated, but I think it could be worth a visit, just to take your mind off things. I’ve been curious myself and had gotten the number…”

“Ah, here it is.” Kim PD pulled up the registered contact and offered his smartphone.

“…Then, I’ll trust you, PD-nim, and give it a try.”

Lee Byung-ho didn’t expect to feel miraculously better, but as mentioned, it could be a good change of pace. He pulled out his smartphone and quietly wrote down the number.

* * *

“Where in the world is the subway entrance…”

It was Gangnam Express Bus Terminal. Chae Eun-bi had arrived ten minutes ago, but she was still wandering around, smartphone in hand.

‘Seoul is always so complicated whenever I come.’

Crowded and hard to find your way around. Eventually shaking her head, she took out her phone.

Not blaming the complexity of Seoul, but rather herself for only now opening the map application when she didn’t know the way, didn’t occur to her.

“…Sigh. Did I come here for nothing?”

Why did she bother coming to this place where there were no hopes of glory?

Having already given up, Chae Eun-bi let out a small, bitter sigh.

When did it start? Every time she swung her golf club, Chae Eun-bi began to feel a stabbing pain in her back. Though it would disappear as quickly as it came, it distracted her focus and caused her body to flinch unexpectedly.

Just the right amount of symptoms, nothing more.

Initially, I had thought it was a chronic sprain due to poor condition in my lower back—an assumption drawn from the frequent strains incurred while playing golf. However, it became clear that this was not the usual issue. More precisely, I could not identify exactly what the problem was.

Even hospital visits culminated in the vague diagnosis that there seemed to be an issue with the nerves. Without knowing the precise problem, there was no way to determine a solution. I thought perhaps caution and tenacity would lead to improvement…

Amid such uncertainty, I continued my golfing career, but the outcome was far from positive—in fact, it was disastrously bad. This was to be expected; even in peak condition, my focus was insufficient, let alone when my breathing would abruptly stop just before swinging the club.

After graduating high school and finishing my first tournament as an adult with abysmal results, I tried everything to overcome the issue—seeking out various remedies and home treatments touted as effective. Yet, ultimately, nothing helped.

On the day I reached that conclusion, I had resolved to give up golf cleanly. Or so I had thought…

“But some reluctance still remains, what can I do about it…” I found myself aimlessly handling the golf clubs stored in the warehouse. Visiting the driving range only to be reminded that I could no longer perform a proper swing. It led me to head to Seoul, motivated solely by a stranger I met at the practice range.

Even to myself, it seemed like a ridiculous situation. The chances of it healing my back were slim.

“But oddly enough, I felt a strange trust in the person…” There was a peculiar strength in their voice. Eyes that were deep yet clear, an aura calm but weighted, instilling an inexplicable sense of trust. And to add to that…

“He was also quite handsome.”

Recalling the memory brought to mind the face of Kang Tae-han, smiling lightly while our eyes met. Not incredibly handsome, but memorable nonetheless. To say his appearance had no influence on my decision to come this far would be a lie.

“Maybe I just came to see that ‘ajusshi’!” Even if my back showed no improvement, having been summoned all the way to Seoul, he would likely treat me to a meal. That alone would mean the trip wasn’t entirely in vain, reasoned Chae Eun-bi.

* * *

“Ugh, I’m exhausted.”

It was just past 7 PM on a Saturday evening.

Choi Seong-hyun had just finished his workday and entered the break room, stretching languidly.

His muscles usually felt sore after a day’s work, but today it was exceptionally draining.

‘Did I overdo it?’

Since he began learning massage techniques periodically from Kang Tae-han, his skills had noticeably improved, and customers were increasingly seeking him out. Kang Tae-han had made sure to teach him simple yet effective techniques for easy application.

With a sense of fulfillment lately at work, he had been carried away and continued serving customers past his usual quitting time.

Stiffness creeping through his neck and shoulders, Choi Seong-hyun stretched his arms and shoulders.

“How does Tae-han manage to do this every day…”

Massage, by nature, is physically demanding. It requires not just strength but also continuous focus throughout the session, resulting in both physical and mental fatigue.

Therefore, masseurs only accept clients as their stamina allows and take ample breaks in between. Yet, Kang Tae-han was an anomaly, routinely taking clients without breaks.

Sure, he would catch his breath in the break room for a short while after a session, but that break scarcely lasted five minutes or so. Yet, he never seemed worn out, sometimes even appearing more refreshed after work than before.

Choi Seong-hyun muttered to himself, “I told him to pace himself…”

“…Eh? You haven’t left yet?”

Surprised, Choi Seong-hyun saw Kang Tae-han sitting and smiling wryly.

“Are you waiting for me?”

“Me? Why would I wait for you?”

“…Well, never mind. I thought maybe you had forgotten about some appointment.”

Choi Seong-hyun awkwardly scratched the back of his head.

“But if it’s not that, why are you still here?”

“I’m waiting for a client.”

“…A client?”

Choi Seong-hyun glanced at the clock on the wall, wondering if he had somehow lost track of time. However, the clock clearly read 20 minutes past 7 PM.

‘Hmm…’

It was unusual for his friend, who was so punctual about leaving work, to be waiting for a client at this hour. A likely explanation occurred to Choi Seong-hyun, who then spoke up.

“Did you lose money in stocks?”

“…What are you talking about?”

“Are you doing night shifts to recover what you lost? It’s pretty obvious. I mean, come on.”

Choi Seong-hyun had recently introduced Kang Tae-han to stock trading—how to download apps, set up accounts, and so forth. He had warned him to only invest small amounts at first, yet it seemed Kang Tae-han had already blundered.

At first, testing the waters with a small investment, then getting greedy when it paid off and risking more, only to take a hit—it was a tale almost everyone had experienced at one point, including Choi Seong-hyun himself.

“We all go through it. You can always rebuild your seed money.”

“…I didn’t lose any money, though.”

Kang Tae-han seemed utterly confused, tapping on his smartphone.

“I don’t know why you’re bringing up stocks all of a sudden, but I haven’t lost any money, see?”

He then showed his screen to Choi Seong-hyun, displaying a list of owned stocks, all red without a hint of blue. The portfolio was not spectacular but evidently stable…

Choi Seong-hyun’s eyes flickered with jealousy for a moment.

“Damn, mine are just blues… Anyway, why are you still here?”

“I told you, I’m waiting for a client. I have someone to see separately.”

Kang Tae-han shrugged and spoke, then abruptly stood up, as if sensing something.

“Mr. Kang, the client you mentioned earlier seems to have arrived.”

Manager Hwang opened the door and entered the waiting room at just the right moment. Kang Tae-han, as if waiting for this, stepped outside… and Choi Seong-hyun followed a few steps behind, his curiosity piqued.

“Ah, ajusshi! Long time no see!”

In the lobby, a beautiful young woman who seemed to be barely twenty waved at Kang Tae-han, and they seemed to be acquainted.

Caught off guard by the unexpected situation, Choi Seong-hyun’s eyes widened in surprise.

“I’m a bit later than I thought.”

“No, this neighborhood is so complicated. I didn’t have time to dry my hair properly before rushing here.”

“Ha… Well, let’s not worry about that right now. Please, follow me.”

Kang Tae-han gestured toward the corridor and led the way, and the two disappeared into a room. As Choi Seong-hyun stood blankly staring at the empty corridor for a while, he approached Manager Hwang, scratching his head.

“Manager, isn’t that guy over there dating at work?”

“What nonsense are you spouting, Choi? He said she’s a client.”

Manager Hwang looked at Choi Seong-hyun incredulously.



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